How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

October 19, 2020   |   by Guest Blogger   |    blog category, Fashion

There is so much buzz about “capsule wardrobe” these days. If you do a search on Pinterest, etc. you’ll find the clothes are almost all alike: Jeans, black pants and other basics along with white t’s and/or blouses and neutral coats, usually black.

My personal philosophy is that while I believe the staples I mentioned are indispensible, not having any fun, colorful pieces can be limiting and lead to boredom. You might feel like you just wear the same bland cookie cutter thing over and over again. (Yawn!)

Also with the traditional capsule wisdom, you just might not be expressing yourself fully.

My strategy is to create mini capsules within your wardrobe. You’ll have your basics (mainly neutrals) that span several capsules and you’ll also have colors and prints to express your style and feed your emotions.

Fall is the perfect time to get started on your capsules!

Here are guidelines that will help you begin to build your mini capsules and eventually an entire wardrobe.

Find a pattern, print, stripe or plaid to inspire the color scheme of your mini capsule. 

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t wear a lot or any prints, simply consider it as your inspiration.

For the most versatility, choose a print that includes at least 3 colors. Ideally, you want to pick 2 or more wardrobe neutrals and an accent color.

For example, for fall you might find a plaid blazer or a scarf with a camel, black, red and white print, (picture classic Burberry plaid.)  The camel, black and white are the neutrals, and red is your accent.

And if you like mixing up prints a few that play well together are animal prints, stripes, plaids, polka dots and florals.

 Plan for 5 to 8 pieces of clothing to start

Five pieces might include three tops and two bottoms.  A knit top, blouse, jacket, skirt and pants/jeans would be perfect. Believe it or not, these pieces can be combined to create 12 different looking outfits.

An eight-piece capsule goes even further, and when you finally build to a 12-piece capsule, you can create 48 to 72 different outfits! (Psst…this isn’t including shoes, so changing your shoes can totally explode the number of looks.)

As I mentioned earlier, I think I’d be bored with a larger capsule, so I prefer keeping the capsules smaller, but if you prefer a smaller range of colors, the 12-piece capsule could be perfect.

Select pieces that are basic—simple in styles lines and shape. 

Basics are clothes that are simple and somewhat plain in design without much detail or decoration. Think of a pair of slim black pants or a classic navy blazer.

When clothes are simple in line and shape, not only can they can be combined for a variety of looks, but also the entire mood of an outfit can change with different accessories.

One last note on this point is that simply designed pieces will layer more easily. For example, chunky sweaters with ruffles on the upper arm are trendy this season, but the style could leave you feeling too bulky when you top it with a blazer or jacket.

Choose pieces that will go together and will work with at least 2 other pieces. 

This is how you build a variety of interesting looks. Initially, all or most pieces in a capsule should work together. You’ll want to be able to wear your tops alone and also layered. (We’re in Colorado after all…the “capital state” for layering!)

Pick pieces that are distinctly different from one another—no 2 pieces alike.

This guideline is crucial to creating many various combinations and moods with your clothes. If you have 5 plaid shirts or 3 pairs of black pants, you’ll not only be limiting your flexibility, but you could start to feel like you’re wearing a uniform.

I’ll share one exception…I’ve loosened up on this one over the years. If you have a really hard time finding pants, consider buying 2 colors when you find a flattering cut, but I’d definitely recommend stopping at 2.

Select accessories that go with the clothes—basic accessories first. 

You may want to start with quality silver or gold watches and jewelry. As your capsule grows and the color scheme strengthens, go ahead and invest in more varied accessories, such as teal booties, brightly colored watchbands, or belts in a variety of colors and textures.

Knowing you have many outfits to wear these accessories with takes away the guilt factor, and by this point you deserve it.

Gradually expand your capsule(s) to meet all of your wardrobe needs.

I love the idea that you can start out small and build your wardrobe over time by adding pieces to your capsules. On the flip side, you can follow these guidelines and buy a large capsule all at once. It all depends on your preference for variety, lifestyle needs and how you like to shop.

Dana Lynch, AICI FLC, owner of Elements of Image, is Denver’s top image consultant specializing in “taking the stress out of getting dressed.” She works with female attorneys, CPA’s, and other successful professionals to help them create wardrobes that increase their confidence, creating more ease and success in their lives. Visit to subscribe to Dana’s e-Style Tip and find more great advice like this.

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